The Final Push to Secure a Top-Eight Finish

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The season is drawing to a close and we’re starting to get a real good look at who the serious contenders are to take the flag. No one can deny how strong the Adelaide Crows are looking and even the GWS Giants. However, as we saw last year when the Western Bulldogs came in seventh and won the premiership, you can never write off the teams that finish a little bit further down the ladder.

So, who are the major dark horses that could upset the frontrunners in this season’s playoffs?

Funnily enough, the Bulldogs are hitting their stride at the perfect part of the season. They once again sit in seventh and have won four out of their last five matches. In another positive boost for the club, star midfielder and defender Easton Wood has avoided the knife and won’t require surgery on his hamstring, with the club confident he will be ready for finals football if they can secure a top-eight spot. The Doggies don’t have the easiest run home, though, facing the Giants, Port Adelaide and Hawthorne. They will have to be at their best if they have any chance of making it in.

The Port Adelaide Power are still in the mix, sitting in fifth, but with such a bad record against the top teams so far this year, it’s hard to see them making much of an impact come September. They have a relatively easy run home, though, coming up against Collingwood, the Gold Coast and the Bulldogs. With only four points separating fifth to 11th place, they will feel they probably need to win all three games.

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What a season it has been for the sensational Sydney Swans! After their worst start to a season in 24 years and becoming the first team to go 0-6 after being in a Grand Final the previous season, they have managed to turn it all around and are now bombarding their way into finals contention. They are currently in seventh place and the latest AFL tips currently have 100% confidence in them defeating Fremantle this weekend, proving how much of a dangerous side people think they are. They have to face the Crows the week after, though, and that will be their real test before what should be an easy win for them against the hapless Carlton Blues considering the Swan’s form.

Sitting four points behind these three teams in eighth is the Essendon Bombers. They have the daunting task of taking on the Crows in their next game and will be praying for other results to go their way if they can’t manage an upset. Fortunately for the Dons, their two last matches come against opposition that they will be quite confident of overcoming. Firstly, they meet the Gold Coast Suns, then finish up the year at home to the Freemantle Dockers.

The West Coast Eagles, Melbourne Demons and Saint Kilda also sit on 40 points. These teams all have a mathematical chance of finishing in the eight also and it’s going to be a spectacularly tight finish to what has already been an amazing year of footy.

Sloane Leads the Crows to Victory in Top-of-the-Table Clash

On Friday night, AFL fans witnessed the much-anticipated game between the Adelaide Crows and the Geelong Cats. The Melbourne club had become a ‘bogey’ team for the Crows in recent times and the boys from South Australia were looking to break a five-game losing streak against them. The Crows 13.13 (91) defeated Geelong 10.10 (70) and maintained their grip at the top of the ladder.

Adelaide came out all guns blazing and dominated the match from the get-go. Their dominant performance in the first quarter set the tone for the rest of the game. Even though they were kept scoreless in the final quarter, they had done enough to secure the victory and give themselves some precious breathing space on top of the table. Adelaide is now the firm favourite, with the latest odds of 3.40 suggesting they will be the ones to lift the trophy in September.

Adelaide kicked five goals in the first quarter and their explosive football kept Geelong relatively quiet with the Cats only managing one goal. The Crows never really let them back into the game after that and it was always going to be a struggle to come back from the 22-point deficit at quarter-time.

They finished at half-time 29 points up and went into the third quarter leading by 37. The Cats put on a late charge inspired by Geelong veteran Harry Taylor in the final quarter, but unfortunately for the home fans, his three goals in five weren’t enough to snatch the points.

Rory Sloane was absolutely fantastic throughout the match. He kicked three goals, collected 27 disposals and laid seven tackles in an electrifying game. Considering he was heavily concussed just six days prior after receiving a heavy knock in Darwin against the Melbourne Demons, it was a remarkable performance. After a display like this from the powerful midfielder, it’s easy to see why his name gets mentioned when people start talking about the Brownlow Medal.

Richard Douglas was lethal in front of the sticks and finished the night with a career-high four goals and 20 disposals. Adelaide’s Sam Jacobs was also terrific, with his 32 hit-outs and 17 possessions providing Sloane with perfect service through the middle of the park. Hugh Greenwood, with 23 possessions, and the Crouch brothers all gave impressive displays, with Matt having 32 two touches and Brad 29.

There were some standouts for the Cats, though. Patrick Dangerfield had a prominent display, with 25 disposals, after recovering from a foot injury sustained last week, while Taylor almost rallied the troops for a comeback and kicked five goals overall.

The Crows are in prime position now for a top-two finish and a home final. They will be full of confidence going into their next match against the Collingwood Magpies, who have been struggling of late. The Cats will walk away and lick their wounds but will surely be ready by next week when they take on the Carlton Blues, in what coach Chris Scott will see as a must-win game.

Tigers Pushing for Top-Four Finish

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Richmond Tigers have continued to get their season back on track as they defeated the Carlton Blues at the MCG in front of 64,448 fans. In what should have been a relatively easy affair for the Tigers, they definitely didn’t do themselves any favours with their opening play and went in to the first break trailing by four points.

Richmond had a much better showing defensively in the second quarter, limiting Carlton to no goals and finding themselves just one behind. On the other hand, they were extremely wasteful in front of goal, taking only two goals and putting it wide for seven behinds.

Much to their supporters’ dismay, Richmond once again started to let Carlton back into the game during the third quarter. They did, however, manage to see out the rest of the game and seal the win. This came as a great relief to the players and the coach who were anticipating the final siren. As Tiger great Matthew Richardson said on 3AW: “It’s a good game if you like grinding games… I don’t.”

There were a few standouts for the boys in black and yellow with Jack Riewoldt kicking three goals and Dustin Martin grabbing 30 disposals. Kane Lambert and Shaun Grigg were equally as important, taking 26 disposals each.

The win, however, does see The Tigers cement their place in the top eight, bringing back the form that they enjoyed so much at the start of the season. This sees them take three wins out of their last four games and keeps them level on 32 points with the Sydney Swans, Melbourne Demons and Port Adelaide, who all recorded wins last weekend.

For their next fixture, the Tigers have the daunting task of heading to South Australia to take on Ken Hinkley’s Port. It’s a vital fixture for both, with Port at 73/100 and Richmond at 16/5 according to Oddschecker for a top-four finish, and that’s certainly something that will be on both coach’s minds.

Richmond will be hoping they can bring back the form that saw them start the season with five wins on the trot, and take points off some strong opposition. Port Adelaide will certainly be looking to put their stamp on this game having lost all four of their games against top-eight teams this season. It is shaping up to be a crucial match for both teams to keep up their momentum heading in to the second half of the season.